What Marathon Training Taught Me About Work

The 2018 Chicago Marathon is less than one month away and as I reach the peak of my training and start to taper before the race, I’m reflecting on what this experience has taught me (because, you know, I’ve got a lot of time to think on those long runs). I started training for the marathon when I felt like I had finally hit a stride in my running. I’ve been a runner since high school and in May finished a 10K with a friend, and for the first time in my life, I was having more good runs than bad.

Marathon training, more than anything else, takes a lot of time. I figured I don’t think there’s really a good time to train and run a marathon, so why not now? I assumed I would learn a bit about myself on this journey. I was surprised at how much it applied to my life at work. But here we are.

Patience

This could also be known as, “Put in the work.” Progress doesn’t always have to be fast, as much as I want it to be. A career coach I know says that you can either grow your business fast or you can grow it deliberately, and as much as I wanted him to be wrong, I think I have to give this one to him. If I’d started my training with my first long run at 18 miles, I actually would have set myself back. And the same goes for your goals at work; you have to put in the time to see real progress, even if that means waiting for those seeds to sprout. I want everything to move faster, and to grow bigger, and sometimes it’s hard to take a step back when you’re right in the middle of it.

When I finished my 10K, I was done. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have to run 20 more miles and all the training in between, but with patience and putting in the work, now it doesn’t seem so daunting. The path can be tedious and tiring and long, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t getting done.

If you’re feeling the burn, and you feel like you aren’t as far along as you’d like to be, take a pause. Do an internal audit and figure out the reasons you’re not reaching your goals. Is it because you have to be a little more patient to allow your work to sprout? Or have you not been putting in enough of the work to see results?

Get yourself a team

It means so much to know that you have a group of people that have your back. I don’t train with a group, but I have been running as a charity partner for the race and it’s forced me to share more of my running journey and ask people to support me and my fundraising. Even though I’m out there running the miles myself, I know that I have a team of people rooting for me.

And they are there because I asked for their support. You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t ask for what you need, and you want to surround yourself with people who you can go to and ask for what you need. Spend some time on this: do you trust your coworkers? Do you feel committed to them? Do you feel comfortable like you make up a real team or do you feel like you’re counting down the seconds until you can go home and not have to worry about them until 9 a.m. the next morning? Trust is the bottom of the pyramid when it comes to building a team; it’s the base from which you can build everything else. Even when you are silo-ed in an organization, even when you don’t actively need your coworkers for a project, having built a strong team is like your security blanket.

There will be bad days

This might be the most important lesson I’ve learned in my training, and it’s that no matter how prepared you are and how well you’ve stuck to your training plan, some days are just going to be bad. Some days your legs won’t feel it, the heat will get to you, or you’ll just feel crappy. It happens. It’s not the end of the world.

Similarly, there are going to be bad days at work, and that’s not a lesson that most of you needed me to spell out for you. You might be having one of those bad days right now. It can be really hard to shake off those bad days at work; you start to blame everything and everyone, and a gray cloud starts to rain on only you everywhere you go. What the training has helped me to do is to let that go, to be able to show up the next morning fresh and ready to go.

 

We tell our clients all the time that even when you find your dream job, you’re still going to have crappy days at work, and how you handle them makes all the difference. Our careers are marathons, not sprints, after all.

 

Nora Philbin

Nora is a co-founder of Happy Spectacular, which she still can't really believe, and she's on a lifelong quest for the world's best cheeseburger (applicants accepted).

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